Students learn a naughty word

I made an interesting discovery the other day – Japanese girls love Velveeta cheese.
Velveeta – “Melts better and 1/2 less Fat than Cheddar Cheese”
A while back, my family sent me a big box of goodies from the states, and included in the box were a variety of foodstuffs, including Velveeta cheese. Anyway, M came to visit me a couple of weeks ago and for dinner one night, I ended up making some grilled cheese sandwiches and soup. Despite the fact that I took several hours to make the soup from scratch (a monumentous undertaking when you consider the fact that I only have one pot…), she sort of slurped it down with a noncommittal “not bad”.
After she was halfway finished with the soup, she started in on the grilled Velveeta cheese sandwich. As she swallowed the first bite, her eyes lit up as if she had just eaten some ultra expensive caviar or something.
“My goodness!! This is delicious!!!” she exclaimed, hurriedly taking another bite. “What kind of cheese is this!?”
I should take this moment to explain that my dear M is a girl with very expensive tastes – while I am strictly of the “look! McDonald’s is having a 99 yen special!” persuasion, she is the sort of person who totes around fancy sounding guides that have names starting with “Z” I can’t even pronounce – guides which are filled with lots of really, really expensive restaurants with lots of pretty gold stars next to their names and prices that start right around my monthly rent (without drinks). The sort of places where they serve things like duck livers and shark fin soup. Now I don’t know about you, but when I see a shark, my first thought is “Oh SHIT!! Ruuuuunnnn…!!!!”. Apparently though, for some people that first thought is instead “gee, I wonder how it would taste if I chopped up his fin, made a soup out of it, and charged poor hapless pandas half of his weekly paycheck for it?” More evidence, I think, that I am condemned to forever be a member of the proletariat…
Anyway, after letting M spirit away half of my block of Velveeta cheese, I forgot all about it until a couple of days ago, when I had a couple of Japanese friends over for dinner. As one of them was rummaging through my refrigerator, she came across the remaining portion of my block of Velveeta.
“Hey Mike? What is this? Can I try some of this?” she inquired.
“Sure! Go ahead …!” I replied. Afterwards, there was silence out of the kitchen for about 30 seconds. Then she comes running into the living room.
“Oh my goodness!! This is the best cheese I’ve ever had…!” she exclaimed. “Where did you get it from?”
“Well, umm… I think my mom bought it at Wal-Mart…” I timidly offer (I think she was expecting the name of an import boutique or something…) At this point, my other friend has taken a piece to try.
“Wow!! This really is good!” she chimes in “can we have some with dinner?”
“Umm… yeah, sure, I guess.” I defeatedly replied, staring at the quasi-delicious Japanese-style meal I had just spent two hours trying to sort out in the kitchen. So for all you luckless lads out there trying to woo that perfect J-bird of your dreams don’t waste your money on expensive Hermes bags, Christian Dior trinkets or dinners at fancy schmancy restaurants in Ginza. Instead, just invite them back to your place and make sure to have a refrigerator fully stocked with Velveeta cheese. :)
Anyway, as I was cleaning up after dinner, I happened to accidentally poke a hole in one of my sliding paper doors. As any of you who have ever lived in a Japanese style house know, paper is not the best choice for making an object that will be opened and closed dozens of times a day, much as wood is not the best choice in construction materials for houses built in a country that lies directly atop several earthquake fault lines. Nonetheless, unencumbered by a western preoccupation with logic, my apartment was built containing several sliding paper doors, and it was only a matter of time until I accidentally stuck one of my grubby panda paws through one of them.
You’ll notice the tape to the left indicates this isn’t my door’s first accident.
As I sat back and tried to mentally calculate how much that was going to take out of my security deposit, I happened to remember way back when I was just a little freshpanda in the university, enrolled in Japanese 203 (class title: nihongo rips your tiny brain out, tears it to shreds, stomps on it, then stuffs it back in your head in time for the final exam) where we had a text book that ended every lesson with a classical Japanese kotowaza (proverb) or haiku. One of the haikus we had to learn had something to do with sticking one’s finger through a sliding paper door, but try as I might, I could only remember part of it. The haiku, for the record is as follows:
Utsukushi ya
shoji no ana no
ama no gawa.

A lovely thing to see,
through the paper window’s hole
the Milky Way.
So yesterday, while I was teaching my adult student class, I decided to ask to see if anybody there knew the haiku.
“Hey! Do any of you know the haiku that goes something like “something something no ana. . . something something. . . ama no gawa?” (lit. something something … hole… something something… the milky way)
Silence fills the room. In puzzlement, I look over at my JTE (Japanese Teacher of English) who’s making that face he does right before he starts giggling like a little girl.
“Wha-” I begin. But before I can finish, one of the female students pipes up.
“There’s no poem about an ana (hole)!” she squeals, her face turning red. (It turns out that many Japanese, in a typically juvenile fashion, tend to associate the word “ana” (“hole”) with, uhh, “vagina” or so claims my JTE…)
My adult students took me out to lunch for New Years day!!!
Anyway before I can reply, Kuwataro, a wonderfully crotchety old man (think Waltar Mathau in “Grumpy Old Men”) blurts out:
“You mean the story Ishihara (the controversial mayor of Tokyo) wrote when he was young?”
“Umm… I’m not sure. Maybe. But I’m thinking of a really short poem – how long was Ishihara’s poem?” I didn’t really think Ishihara wrote what I was thinking about, since the man is best known for such quotes as “the Rape of Nan king was a Chinese fabrication”and “Japanese ‘aggression’ during WWII ‘rescued’ Asia from white colonization”.
“Oh!! His story, it’s about, when he sticks his …. *momentary pause while he mulls it over in his head* man’s pride through a hole in the paper door”
Just as I rock back on my heels in stunned silence while a couple of the female students start giggling, and one of the other guys in the class nods in solemn silence as if asserting ‘yeah, I read that book too’, my JTE pipes up:
“Oh, you’re talking about he stuck his penis through a paper door…?”
“What the..!!?” I practically flip out – not only has one of my students just used the expression “man’s pride”in a sentence along with “stick through a hole in a paper door” -
They look so innocent just sitting here, right? Ha! Looks can be deceiving…
By the way, I would like to take this moment to pontificate on one of my biggest pet peeves: people who refer to sexual organs with all sorts of round-about verbose expressions as if they’re describing a fine French wine or something. Like calling it a “man’s pride”, “her flower of fertility”, or my number one pet peeve in the whole entire world, referring to you-know-what as “seed” (aka. “he sowed his seed in her fertile loins”. It makes me want to scream “are you having sex or running a damn farm…!?”
Anyway, back to me flipping out. So not only has one of my students suddenly started talking about someone sticking “his man’s pride through a hole in a paper door”, but my JTE decides to add to the fun and excitement by continuing to talk about penises!!! For some reason, talking about sticking penises through paper doors with a bunch of old women and men makes me feel unsettled.
But before I can admonish my JTE, Hiromi chimes in
“Oh, you mean like Bill Clinton?”
and as I watch in horror, my JTE replies:
“No, there’s a difference. He was talking about paper doors. Bill Clinton put his cock in Lewinski’s mouth”
“OHMYGODSHUTTHEHELLUPWHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU!!!!?”I scream at him, waving my hands in front of his face to try and stop the disaster that is unfolding here. It’s one thing for a teacher to teach students the word “penis”- it’s a whole ‘nother ballgame when you start talking about putting cocks in people’s mouths.
Loan reacts in horror as I recount the story…
I should mention something about my JTE – he’s smart. Really, really smart. In fact, not only does he speak English better than most native speakers, but he’s also very well educated – up to date on current political events, extremely well versed in both history and linguistics, but also able to render strong, well supported opinions – an extremely usual phenomenon amongst Japanese in general, and exceedingly rare to find amongst Japanese English teachers.
Unfortunately, he’s also a Japanese guy, which means that his sense of humor is roughly equivalent to that of a 12 year old boy, which is to say both lecherous and insanely interested in potty language. So he takes every opportunity he can to try and “shock” me by using words like “vagina” or the above mentioned c-word, etc. either in private or in class. Usually this isn’t much of a problem, since my normal students can barely spell “the” correctly 30% of the time and we could talk about a pornographic movie in detail at the front of the class and they still wouldn’t know what was going on. The adult students on the other hand, are a completely different story – they catch on quick.
And quick as I acted, it was too late. Smart as buttons Takako had already jumped on the word before I managed to drown it out with my frantic yelling. As sweet as can be, she looks at me and asks
“put his cock? Sensei, what’s a cock?”
At this point, my JTE just sits back in his chair, his arms folder and a goofily evil grin plastered across his face, his work having been done. Sometimes I secretly think he just likes to set me up in these kinds of situations and watch me squirm…
Panda tries to figure out the obscure camera controls.
“uhh… uhhh…” I begin to stammer, desperately searching for a way out. But resourceful as ever, she’s stopped waiting for my answer and starts typing away into her electronic dictionary.
“An adult male chicken; a rooster. A weathervane shaped like a rooster; a weathercock. A valve by which the flow of liquid or gas is regulated….. but what does a bird or valve have to do with Bill Clinton?” she inquires innocently, looking up from her dictionary with slight confusion.
Before I can answer, Kuwataro pipes up again.
“I think it must be another word for man’s pride!!” At this point, I just slap my head and sink into my chair with a groan as several other students begin to nod their agreement. All around the room murmurs started floating out “oh a cock!”… “it is a cock!”… “what a big cock he has…!”
And that is how my students learned the word “cock” today.
Now listening to: “Hybrid – Burnin’ (live at Chemistry Club)”
(I prefer this to the standard album version).
By the way, I would like to take this opportunity to plug my brother’s diary detailing his valiant attempts to restore his much beloved Dodge Daytona to a semi-running condition. Not only is he a really funny writer, but his adventures, much like mine, often end up with him in the hospital (hmm… must be genetic…) which in my opinion only adds to the humor of it all. He’s just getting started, but do me a favor and head over there and check it out if you have the chance.
9:53 am

55 Reactions

  1. Ham

    I really enjoyed reading this. I was searching for Velveeta cheese humor and stumbled onto your blog. I was very amused. Thanks 11/30/2007